How to stop being negative

How to stop being negative

Tell your inner negativity bias that the glass is half full!

Are you guilty of being a Negative Nellie? I think many of us can be. I certainly am.

It can be a struggle to stop being negative. But, for the benefit of your day-to-day (and the day-to-day of the people around you), it is important to try. If you can manage to start seeing the glass as half full and not half empty – it can make a huge difference to how you feel about your life.

This glass half empty or Negative Nellie outlook – demonstrates negativity bias. Negativity bias is pretty much what it sounds like – a tendency to focus on the negative over the positive.

From a caveman perspective, this makes sense – because a pessimistic outlook can keep us safe and away from potential danger for reasons of survival. But, in this relatively safe day and age, it can be problematic and linked to mental health issues.

Being negative can spiral our moods into serious negative emotions (and, the moods of the people around us). When we approach life like Eeyore (from Winne the Pooh) it can impact our relationships, decision-making and general perceptions.

How to stop being negative

This is not to say that negativity, in general, is bad. As a hangover from our caveman days – we are more likely to pay attention to and learn from negative information. There are also health benefits from having mixed emotions. And although there can be benefits to suppressing negative emotions – researchers have found negative health consequences for people who fail to experience the emotions of negative life events. 

So, being purely Positive Polly – is also not the end game.

The aim should be to approach life with an open mind and be able to focus on the positives. Not continuously dwell on the negatives.

So, if you are (also) someone that finds the glass half empty all too often. I wanted to give you a list of the quick & relatively easy tips that can help. Then we can then work on these together!

How to stop being negative – 5 top tips

1. Self-reflection & Self-awareness

That old adage “the first step in solving a problem – is knowing you have a problem” – totally applies here.

You need to be self-aware and understand that you are doing this – if you want to get on top of it.

When people ask you about something – do you first go to the negatives or the positives? (I am TOTALLY guilty of being a Negative Nellie)

2. Catch yourself

So, you know that the glass is mainly half empty? Great.

Now, you need to catch yourself when you are paying too much attention to the negative – so you can get onto point 3.

3. Have a word with yourself

When you catch yourself being negative – take a step back and assess what is really going on.

Is there a whole lot of positives involved that you are choosing to ignore? Have a word with yourself and focus on the positive that is there too (and probably in a much greater abundance than the negative).

Take the opportunity to reframe. No – this isn’t a disaster at work that will delay your project – this is an exciting new opportunity and challenge to rise to!

Is your inner voice telling you there is something wrong with you? Talk to it supportively like you would a good friend. Train that voice to be more kind and gentle. 

4. Gratitude

Have you got a good gratitude practice?

In this world of gratitude journals and affirmations, there are lots of great habits to get into to focus on the positive in your life and savor those positive moments.

If you are less inclined to build these sorts of habits (like myself) – I recommend you just spend a second after you “have a word with yourself” (Step 3) and give yourself a mental high five for the positive you can find in the situation.

Also, when you are feeling down practice gratitude by thinking about 3 things you are grateful for today. This will kick your brain into a more positive frame of mind.

5. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great practice to help keep out the persistent negativity.

I am all about mindful breathing and yoga when I need to quiet down those loud negative thoughts.

How to be happier day-to-day

So, now you know how to stop being negative.

Once you are up and running with this more positive practice – you can look forward to more positive vibes in your day (and maybe fewer friends avoiding you).

Remember to approach this process with a gentle and curious mind. The last thing you want to do is send yourself on a negative spiral for being negative all the time!

Hello Polly and goodbye Nellie!

First Published: January 7, 2021

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    Living a purposeful life – is not quite enough

    Living a purposeful life – is not quite enough

    Why I advocate for: a package deal; avoiding being a miserable purpose-driven engine; & balancing out the joy-suckers. 

    These days – I feel like everyone is telling us to live a purposeful life.

    Research tells us that living a purposeful life has many benefits. These range from psychological well-being and life satisfaction to physical advantages too.

    But, I believe that purpose is only part of the picture. Especially, at a time when life is busy with work and kids. And today I want to explain why.

    What is purpose?

    The definition of purpose would be a sensible starting place for this discussion. This is easier said than done.

    In literature, the definition and components of purpose can differ. However, research into the psychology of purpose generally agrees that it has three components: 

    • Meaning: Your understanding of what brings personal meaning to your life
    • Goals: The pursuit of personal goals that are aligned to your meaning
    • The benefit of others: A component of your meaning-aligned goals will be for the benefit of others.

    A bit about the research on living a purposeful life

    The topic of life’s purpose has been mused over since ancient times. However, modern research for the psychology of purpose started with Austrian psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl

    During the Holocaust, Frankl observed a link between survivors and the presence of a sense of meaning. From the publication of his book Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) to the present-day field of positive psychology, there has been an abundance of data demonstrating the importance of purpose in our lives.

    Let’s talk about the benefits of a purposeful life

    Psychological benefits

    Research demonstrates that purpose is an important component of psychological wellbeing. This is defined by both an enhanced positive state and a reduction in negative states such as anxiety, boredom, depression, and loneliness. 

    Physical benefits

    Purpose has also been found to correlate to many physical benefits. Including: 

    Why living a purposeful life isn’t all beer and skittles

    I am not disputing that purpose is linked to positive emotions and wellbeing. But, anyone who is a parent knows – it doesn’t always bring happiness. 

    Happiness itself is a minefield term (that I will discuss in detail at a later date). However, let’s define it today – as a sense of pleasure.

    Studies have found that parenting is a highly purposeful experience. However, if you are a parent that finds this experience 100% pleasurable – get in touch – I’ve always wanted to meet a unicorn.

    In fact, the data suggests that primary caregiving is associated with an increase in depressive symptoms.

    Living a purposeful life

    Are you a miserable purpose-driven engine? 

    So – if you are in the business of parenting – you may have found sometimes there is a hole where happiness used to be.

    It should also be considered that research has shown – over our lifetime happiness can be represented by a U curve. According to this model, we can expect a continual decrease in happiness until we reach 49 – when it upturns and increases (so we can expect to be very happy in our 70s). 

    (Am I filling you with hope and excitement? 🙁 – bear with me) 

    For these reasons, I propose life has to be a package deal (for us under mid-50s primary caregivers). To avoid an unhappy outlook day-to-day – we need to concentrate on sprinkling happiness on top of our purpose-driven lives.

    Now, I feel I need to tell you – this sort of happiness or pleasure we are talking about does not have the positive benefits of purpose. In fact, it may have some detrimental effects. (I will also cover further at a later date). But, sometimes – you have got to do – what you have got to do.

    Because – in my mind – to get yourself happily out of bed in the morning – the key is to find the right balance in your life. 

    Behavioural Scientist Paul Dolan proposes we need to find the balance between being a “pleasure machine” who experiences more pleasure than purpose and a “purpose engine” that experiences more purpose than pleasure in the day-to-day.

    How balanced is your life? 

    Now, it may be pretty obvious to you whether your life is striking the right balance. But, if you are wondering. Take a moment to self-reflect on the week that has passed. 

    (If you want to get serious get out a spreadsheet or pens so you can do some math or draw some charts.)

    Think about: 

    • How much time have you spent on purposeful activities? Think about activities that felt fulfilling and worthwhile eg. projects at work, helping family or time exercising
    • How much time have you spent on pleasurable activities? Think about things that have brought you joy and excitement. 
    • Is the balance right between the two?

    What do you reckon – have you got the balance right? 

    The key to living a purposeful life – The package deal

    So, although there is a myriad of reasons that you should be living a purposeful life. Remember, happiness should not be neglected. The very things that are giving you purpose could be sucking the joy out of your life. So, you need to strike the right balance. 

    For example, when the joy-suckers have gone to bed – put on your favourite tunes – pour your favourite drink – and get excited about your 70s… (the real winning age in the happiness U curve)

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      Have you got the balance right in your life?

      Pop a comment below & let me know your thoughts.